An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath
36. PICTISH CROSSBOWMAN
[Based on the Pictish crossbowman on the Drosten Stone]
This figure is from the 9th century Drosten Stone, close examination of which proves beyond doubt that the weapon carried is a variety of crossbow.
2 other stones, at Glenferness and Shandwick, show similar weapons but they are more weathered and their details are consequently far less clear.
All 3 stones show such crossbows being used in hunting scenes by kneeling hooded men, but there is no reason to suppose they were not also used in war.
The way they are held in the sources is a little obscure and has led one historian to the conclusion that they may have been fired by manually releasing the bow-string rather than by the use of a trigger-mechanism (see note 130).
However excavations at the 6th-7th century Strathclyde British site of Buston Crannog in Ayrshire in the late-19th century yielded a crossbow trigger-nut made of horn as well as 2 arrows with pyramidal heads that have all the characteristics of crossbow bolts.
These finds would seem to indicate that the crossbow was possibly in limited use in Scotland throughout this era.
Next: 37. IRISH CHIEFTAIN